refined carbohydrates

Keto & Carbs

As a keto dieter, you should only consume carbohydrates within the recommended amounts, 20–50 grams per day maximum based on individual needs and goals. When you do snag your daily dose of carbohydrates, however, it’s important to get the right type. Refined carbs are bad for the body, no matter what your dietary preferences. What are refined carbs, and why should you avoid them? (1)

Here’s a helpful guide:

What are Refined Carbohydrates? Refined carbohydrates are present in many foods, especially breads and pastas. Many sugars and starches are also sources of refined carbohydrates, however. Natural foods are the only carbs that are NOT refined, with all other sources going through multiple, factory-made processes to transform them into their store-bought form. For a carbohydrate to be completely unrefined it must occur as it does in nature (2). When you go keto, these should be the sources of carbs you’re looking for, not the refined carbohydrates that come from processed foods.

After the source has been modified to eliminate its natural elements, it’s considered to be a refined carb. These foods are not present in nature, but have gone through an intense manufacturing process to add concentrates, transform enzymes, and change the food’s basic structure (3). From corn syrup, found in most candies, to white grains, refined carbohydrates are everywhere. For the average dieter, finding healthy, unrefined carbs can be difficult.

What are the Most Refined Carbohydrates, and Why? Factory processing dictates which carbs are the most refined. While both sugars and starches qualify, white rice provides a picture of just how much processing takes place, and how detrimental these foods are for your system.

In nature, grain sources (rice included) will have their outer bran coating present. During processing, this coating is eliminated. The initial grain is broken down into many tiny, finely ground particles. The more ground up these particles are, the more refining has taken place, and the less close to nature that carbohydrate is. While this makes them faster and easier to cook, it also means that they’re more of a factory product than a natural food.

Refined carbs provide empty calories and not much else (4). The keto lifestyle involves such a low carb intake that you’ll want to keep the small amount of carb you do consume as natural and unrefined as possible.

Why are Refined Carbohydrates Bad for You? Refined carbohydrates are the leading source behind many health problems and diseases, from anxiety and insomnia to Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and diabetes. In addition, they assist in the absorption of fiber—something that dieters cannot absorb on their own, and need to seek in outside food sources. Whether you want to get fiber into your system properly, avoid these diseases, or reduce their symptoms, stay away from refined carbs (5).

Since the bloodstream so rapidly absorbs refined carbohydrates, those who consume them can experience rapid spikes in both blood sugar and insulin. When they’re consumed frequently, they can lead to levels of blood sugar and insulin that are rarely well maintained; they’ll frequently rise and fall at alarming rates.

What Role Do Refined Carbohydrates Play in Fiber Consumption?

There is only one way for humans to get fiber, and that’s through food consumption—more specifically, plant consumption. Keep in mind that at its most natural, wheat is a plant source. Once refined, that changes. Fruits and vegetables are fiber-heavy food sources that are healthy at their core.

Fiber is a plant source that humans can’t digest, so the body doesn’t absorb it in the same manner as vitamins and minerals. It still does positive things for the body, however, such as slowing down nutrient absorption. It also prevents those spikes in blood sugar and insulin, lowers cholesterol, and increases feelings of fullness after a meal (6).

Since the refining process eliminates fiber from foods, keto dieters naturally reduce these health risks by keeping their carb count low. As a keto dieter, when you do consume your daily carbs, keep away from the refined variety. The list below will help you discover exactly which foods, drinks, and other sources to keep out of your diet.

When you stay away from refined carbs, you’ll increase your fiber intake, gaining the benefits this brings while eliminating the many negatives. While on the ketogenic diet, don’t just track your carbs, track the types of carbs you’re consuming. This is equally important for your health and can be done by evaluating the list belo, as well as examining nutrient labels to sort out good carbs from the bad.

A List of Refined Carbohydrates This comprehensive list dictates both sugars and starches that qualify as refined carbohydrates. When counting carbs and planning your meals, avoid these at all costs—your body will thank you.

Sugars While you won’t eat many of these on their own, you should avoid foods that contain them. In addition, avoid adding or sprinkling any form of sugar onto healthy items. Some of these products are easy to consume without even thinking about it, so pay close attention and chart your intake.

• Table Sugar • Powered Sugar • Brown Sugar • High-Fructose Corn Syrup • Glucose Syrup • Maple Syrup • Fruit juice • Candy • Cake • Cookies • Donuts

Starches • Corn Starch • Potato Starch • Bagels • Bread • Cereal • Oatmeal • Rice • Pancakes • Pasta • Potatoes • Legumes • All types of Flour, although whole wheat is much less refined than white flour.


(1) Adda Bjarnadottir, MS. Why Refined Carbs Are Bad For You. June 4, 2017. Accessed: Sep. 25th, 2018.

(2) Harvard school of Public Health. Carbohydrates: quality matters. Accessed: Sep. 25th, 2018.

(3) Lee S Gross Li Li Earl S Ford Simin Liu. Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and the epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the United States: an ecologic assessment. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 79, Issue 5, 1 May 2004, Pages 774–779.

(4) Fabrizio Ferretti* and Michele Mariani. Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrate Dietary Patterns and the Global Overweight and Obesity Pandemic. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Oct; 14(10): 1174.

(5) Frank B Hu. Are refined carbohydrates worse than saturated fat? Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jun; 91(6): 1541–1542.

(6) Lisa Brown Bernard Rosner Walter W Willett Frank M Sacks. Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 69, Issue 1, 1 January 1999, Pages 30–42


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